Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced three new Senate nominations today, including a former national union leader, the current mayor of Cornwall, Ontario, and the CEO of Port Saint John, as he continues to fill the 15 vacancies that have accumulated in the Red Chamber over the previous two years. Trudeau has now appointed 55 senators to the upper house, an exceptionally big number of appointments for a single prime leader.
Trudeau appointed more than half of all incumbent senators. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper allowed vacancies in the position to accumulate as the 2013-15 spending scandal raged on, giving Trudeau more opportunities to nominate senators supportive of his campaign for an independent Senate. Hassan Yussuff, the president of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) until only last week, will represent Ontario in the Senate.
Some in the union movement accused the Guyana-born labor leader of being too close to the ruling Liberals. The CLC reiterated its historic support for the New Democratic Party at its convention last week, despite the protests of Yussuff and others who advocated for a more “pragmatic” approach to political coalitions. Yussuff was appointed by the Liberal government to a number of advisory boards while at the CLC, the country’s largest labor organization, including the NAFTA Council, the Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities, and the Net-Zero Advisory Body.
Yussuff formerly worked for the now-defunct Canadian Auto Workers union before taking over the CLC. Yussuff was the CLC’s first person of color to assume an executive role. He is the recipient of various leadership honors as well as honorary doctorates from two universities. While Yussuff’s appointment comes just days after he left the CLC, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said the three nominees announced Tuesday were all “recommended by the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments” and chosen through the “merit-based” application process open to all Canadians.
Another leader with previous Liberal affiliations joins Yussuff in the Senate. Bernadette Clement, the current mayor of Cornwall, Ont., will also represent Ontario. Clement campaigned unsuccessfully for the Liberal Party in the Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry riding in the 2011 and 2015 federal elections. Clement was born in Trinidad to a Franco-Manitoban mother and a Trinidadian father. Clement is the province of Ontario’s first Black mayor.
Clement, a lawyer by trade, is also the executive director of the Roy McMurtry Legal Clinic, a non-profit that provides low-income persons in Cornwall and the surrounding area with legal advice, services, and representation. The current president and CEO of Port Saint John, James Quinn, will shortly represent New Brunswick in the upper house.
Quinn worked in government for many years before entering the private sector. Quinn spent 32 years in high roles with the Canadian Coast Guard, both at sea and on land, as well as with many other federal government ministries, according to his biography provided by the PMO. He was the Canadian International Development Agency’s top financial officer (CIDA).
Quinn is also an honorary lieutenant colonel with the Canadian Army’s 3rd Field Artillery Regiment (The Loyal Company), 5th Canadian Division. The governor-general formally assigns senators to the upper house from a list of names provided by the prime minister, according to the Constitution.
That vice-regal position has been empty for six months, following the resignation of previous Governor General Julie Payette in January amid a scandal. Since his resignation, Chief Justice Richard Wagner of the Supreme Court of Canada has served as the country’s “administrator,” and he is anticipated to swear in this new group of appointees. The three new senators, like the 52 other senators Trudeau selected before today, are expected to serve as independent senators.
The Senate currently contains five caucuses and organizations, and the Liberal/Conservative duopoly that long defined the chamber has been dissolved.